House after house, detectives have been knocking on doors in west St. Petersburg, handing over a piece of paper that asks everyone in the area for help. They want information about a suspected arsonist who may have set four house fires, killing one family's pet dog.
These fires are close in every sense of the word. First, police say all four were in a 500 to 1,000 square foot area, just a short walk away from each other. Secondly, the neighborhood seems to know each other. They're friends.
Seeing the damage and hearing one family lost a pet to the first has everyone feeling sad and scared.
"People are beginning to feel afraid to leave their home," said Joan Vella.
A home on 2nd Avenue South caught fire on Sunday. Like all the others, this blaze started with the owners out of town, or the building was vacant.
It's the fourth fire in this small neighborhood.
"In the ones that had the most significant damage to them, in both cases, the suspect was able to get inside, committing a burglary basically. That's what's causing the major damage in both cases," said Mike Puetz, spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department.
The location plays a factor in the arson theory.
"All of these houses are within a few doors of each other. That's one of the reasons we feel pretty confident we've got a pattern on our hands. These are not houses miles apart, they are all houses that are two or three doors down," Puetz said.
The first fire was more than a year ago. After the fourth, police warned neighbors, going door to door with fliers. Officers explained that fire and three others within the past three months could be connected.
"The community needs to band together and hopefully watch each other," said Mike Jasek.
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